The Sitka Assembly is looking to sell the city-owned Marine Services Center. When the assembly met on Tuesday (2-11-20), it voted to draft a Request for Proposal, but even those who voted on the process weren’t married to the idea of off-loading the facility.  

The city currently leases parts of the building to Seafood Producers Cooperative and North Pacific Seafoods, while setting aside some of the cold storage facilities for independent fishing businesses. But the center is in need of major repairs, including replacing the sea wall- a project that could cost $7 to $8 million.

During public comment, Bert Bergman, who is on the SPC board of directors, said the co-op depends on the infrastructure for their business and they want to maintain access to it. But he also said the board isn’t sure they can afford to buy the site. He asked if the city could separate the seawall that requires expensive repairs from the building in the RFP.

“I don’t know if that’s in the city’s interest, necessarily, but from our standpoint, we’ve really grown into that space,” he said. “And I’m more inclined to go after the cold storage but I’m real leery of the dock.”

Mayor Gary Paxton said they should put out an RFP that required the buyer or long-term lessee to allow public access to the dock. Member Kevin Knox said he was not in favor of the center leaving public hands, and wondered if stipulations in an RFP would even work. 

“If we did end up selling this, somewhat like our discussion around the haulout out of GPIP, if somebody buys it, they could at some point do whatever they want with it,” he said. “So if we did go out to an RFP and look at accepting any kind of offer, I personally would want to see some really strong legal opinion that would assure us that the facility would continue to be used in the public interest.” 

Member Thor Christianson said he was in favor of a call for bids, but isn’t optimistic about finding a buyer. 

“I’m not that hopeful we’re going to get a response that really does what we want it to do, but if we don’t ask the answer is definitely no,” he said. “I think the public needs to know that there’s a huge difference between going out for an RFP and seeing people want to do, and actually doing it.” 

But assembly member Richard Wein said they needed to keep the Marine Service Center under city ownership and develop a plan to repair the sea wall. 

“I want to keep it. It’s like Kenny Rogers, ‘Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.’ I wanna hold ’em.” 

Ultimately, the assembly voted to move forward with the RFP process.  That vote was 4-3 with assembly members Wein, Knox and Eisenbeisz opposed. 

In other business, the Sitka Assembly:

  • Passed, on first reading, new city code for tiny houses
  • Unanimously voted to hire Jessica Leremia as the new library director
  • Voted on first reading to move forward with a project to repair the Crescent Harbor Net Shed ($500,000). The item passed 5-2 with members Steven Eisenbeisz and Kevin Mosher opposed
  • Heard a quarterly update from Police Chief Robert Baty 
  • Approved an agreement between the city and the Sitka Cycling Club
  • Unanimously voted to rezone several lots owned by Halibut Point Marine from industrial to commercial
  • Went behind closed doors to discuss legal matters involving the Sitka Police department

And during persons to be heard, the assembly heard a complaint from Larry Edwards, related to actions taken by Mayor Paxton after the Assembly passed a resolution endorsing no action on the Roadless Rule in November (story forthcoming).